The implications of generative AI on the marketing research and insights industry

Editor’s note: Steven Millman is the global head of research and data science at Dynata.

Buckle up, market researchers. If you thought the explosion of generative AI and large language models in 2023 was intense, wait until you see the changes these technologies will bring in 2024. 

The future of market research is on a collision course with generative AI and our industry will slog, struggle, succeed and learn from mistakes as we collectively figure out what to do with the newly democratized power of AI. 2024 promises to be a year where status quos are shattered, new existential risks emerge and our accomplishments are limited only by our imaginations. 

A futurist at heart, I like to think about both what’s likely and what’s possible. When considering the implications of gen AI on the market research industry, I have five predictions about what to expect in the next year.

An increase in innovation: The bar for new AI tools will be higher

Remember that fancy new gen AI tool you thought was cutting edge? Well, the needle moved and that tool has already become nothing more than boring, basic table stakes. As a wave of creative new models and technologies hit the market, tools worth a news release less than a year ago are now the minimum expectation. Market research companies should, of course, take advantage of basic generative AI applications – e.g., translation, text coding and summarization – but to be considered innovators, they will need to be far more creative with these technologies.

Your LLM, my data 

2024 will bring a shift away from one-size-fits-all models for general applications within our industry. Instead, there will be a move to domain-specific AI, where models are trained on a company’s own unique data, your clients' data and/or industry-specific data sets. These specialized, bespoke models will yield deeper, more nuanced insights, tailored to specific kinds of research and to the specific needs of each project or client. LLMs trained on a company’s own data will make them more valuable to their purposes, while reducing the likelihood of overly generic results or hallucinations.

AI assistants will take over

Friendly, tireless, data-driven assistants that know your job and day to day work requirements will explode into the marketplace in 2024. These tools won’t replace human experts, but will augment their expertise, increase productivity, streamline training and reduce the amount of time experts will need to be consulted. AI assistants will help free up researchers, clients and other stakeholders for higher-level work, while providing real-time support for well-documented tasks.

The rise of AI governance 

As generative AI becomes more deeply embedded in the research process, the need for centralized governance will become undeniable. Expect to see formal AI organizations emerge within market research companies and client organizations. These groups – whether housed within data science, product, operations or technology departments – will provide crucial guidance on product vision, training, productivity and risk mitigation. Their roles will also include keeping their organizations ahead of new and emerging regulation/legislation as well ensuring AI is being used responsibly and ethically.

Generative AI: Consolidation, collaboration and the Wild West 

The gen AI startup landscape is getting crowded – fast. According to Coresignal, we are on track to see nearly 8,000 new AI-driven startups having launched in 2023 alone. Much like the late 1990s saw a boom in startups taking advantage of the emerging digital ad-tagging technologies, advances in gen AI are fostering an environment where brilliant minds are creating valuable companies – and fraudsters are having a field day pretending to be just like them. 

Larger companies that may not have the agility or internal resources to build their own solutions will quickly start to snap up these startups for their patents and their people. This will lead to a period of consolidation but in the rush, companies (and investors) that don’t take the time for proper due diligence will spend a great deal of money on smoke and mirrors. 

I am also expecting to see tremendous growth in money going to strategic partnerships with established AI vendors. These partnerships will be crucial for accelerating solutions and offering trusted advice for navigating the rapidly evolving ecosystem.

Remember, we are just at the cusp of the generative AI era. It isn’t possible today to see all the ways these new technologies will impact the market research industry. 2024 promises to be a year of constant evolution and disruption in the market research space. My advice? Stay curious, stay adaptable and stay on top of new technologies to ensure you’re in the best possible position to stay ahead of the wave.